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Thursday, July 7, 2011

CBI case may seal Dayanidhi Maran’s fate ?

Dayanidhi Maran’s troubles are far from over. The CBI will soon register a case against the former cabinet minister for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum allotment scandal. In its report on the 2G scam, the CBI has said Maran, the telecom minister in 2006, forced industrialist C Sivasankaran to sell his share in Aircel to the Maxis Group of Malaysia by stonewalling a request to grant the company UAS licences.

Three officials of the department of telecommunications, one retired and two serving, have corroborated Sivasankaran’s allegations against Maran during 2004-2006. Maran’s secretary, Nripender Mishra, and officials PK Mittal and RJS Kushwaha are believed to have provided substantial evidence against the former minister to the investigating agency.

“Their testimony has given us substantial leads to register a case against Maran,” a CBI officer told . “It will be registered as soon as we complete recording the statements of all key witnesses. We do not need the PMO’s nod to conduct a probe against him for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

The officer, however, said the CBI would have to inform the speaker of the Lok Sabha before making any arrest. “Maran will be summoned for questioning once we register a case,” he said. A CBI source said the three officials said Maran had stalled the granting of licences to Sivasankaran for more than two years.

The Story

NEW DELHI: With Dayanidhi Maran's exit from the Union Council of Ministers, reclusive globetrotting Chennai-born billionaire Chinnakannan Sivasankaran has, yet again, drawn blood in a battle on his home ground. It was Sivasankaran's charge that Maran manipulated him into selling his telco Aircel by inordinately denying it licences that cost the minister his job.

Malaysian billionaire T Ananda Krishnan of Maxis (along with Apollo Hospital's Reddy family) bought Aircel for $800 million in 2005. The company troubles disappeared and it received telecom licences within four months. Two years later, Ananda Krishnan invested $166 million for a 20% stake in Sun Direct , run by Maran's brother Kalanithi Maran . While Sivasankaran has been crying foul for a while, the game changer was his hiring of former Federal Bureau of Investigations chief Louis Freeh.

When Sivasankaran appeared at the Central Bureau of Investigations office in New Delhi, Freeh appeared with him, and presented his case, backed by an exhaustive trail of documents. Freeh's pitch seems to have persuaded the investigative agency. On Wednesday, CBI told the Supreme Court that Maran had forced Sivasankaran to sell his telco.

In a scandal-battered government, that submission set off the countdown to Maran's ignominious exit from the Textiles Ministry. Fifty five-year-old Sivasankaran, who forced the latest in UPA government's litany of embarrassments through Dayanidhi Maran's exit, is known for very different kind of exits - the profitable kind. The serial entrepreneur has grown from being a fabrication contractor for Chennai Petroleum Corporation to heading a sprawling global business empire worth $4 billion.

Along the way, he has done business in personal computers, telecom and internet service, shipping, real estate, minerals, agro products and financial investments. His investment holdings range from a Norwegian mineral water company to palm oil companies in Africa to real estate and oil companies in India. While little is common to his business interests, his exits are always profitable.

He sold Aircel to Maxis for Rs 4,700 crore. He sold the Barista coffee chain to Italy's Lavazza group for Rs 500 crore in 2007. Three years earlier, he had bought it for Rs 65 crore. He sold Dishnet DSL to VSNL forRs 270 crore in 2004. Siva has exhibited a knack for spotting opportunities and a supreme sense of timing for his exits. Siva, the clash with whom proved too costly for Maran, owns three private jets (a Boeing Business Jet and two Embraer Legacy 600s) and residences around the world.

He serves as the ambassador-at-large for the island republic of Seychelles, where he maintains a seafront residence. While Maran will cool his heels with his colleagues from the embattled Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Siva will be on the prowl for his next acquisition, having profitably settled a niggling insult dating back six years.

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